I had to constantly remind myself before I went to see World’s Greatest Dad that when I saw Sleeping Dogs (nee Stay / Sleeping Dogs Lie) I had no expectations. Bobcat Goldthwait’s scabrously sweet dog sex satire turned out to be one of my favourite films of 2007 and when I heard of the premise of World’s Greatest Dad I was sold. Even with Robin Williams in the lead. But I had no expectations for Sleeping Dogs, and do remember that tonally it could easily shift, shimmy and sometimes undermine its nicely black content. The good news is that World’s Greatest Dad is still at its heart a pretty dark comedy with plenty of laughs and a world view like Sleeping Dogs that can still have heart in a misanthropic world view. But, and its a big but, its not as good as I wanted it to be.

The good: well Williams is very good in the role. The talk show sequence where it is difficult to tell if he is laughing or crying is one of the best bits of acting he has done. For a downtrodden schlub, be fits rather well. Daryl Sabara’s Kyle, his son, is just foul – which is pretty good acting for an ex-Spy Kid and anyone who wants an ongoing career. And the script itself is full of nice touches, and follows a pretty good through line. It heads for a slight cop out ending, but only slightly one (better than the previous five minutes stab at emotional wrap up). But the real problem with the film is that whenever Goldthwait wants to move his plot on, or deal with a tricky tonal shift (nasty comedy to grief, grief to black comedy) he pulls out his soundtrack to replace dialogue or throw in a montage. There are five lengthy music sequences in the film where it is clear the not very good AOR soundtrack is there because its easier than writing what would admittedly be tough scene to write. How do you in a comedy, albeit a black one, deal with the accidental death of a child that is supposed to affect his father who previously hated him without derailing the comedy. Goldthwait’s solution is efficient, but by the time we get to the final sequences we have had enough. Perhaps its just as well his next project is an honest to god musical (based on the Kinks “Schoolboys In Disgrace”).

It is still a dazzlingly distinctive comedy, and hopefully one that will now cement Goldthwait as a director rather than the annoying one from Police Academy sequels (well, the fourth most annoying ones anyway). There is a brutal honesty at the heart of these films, which ask some pretty tough questions whilst entertaining – which you just aren’t getting from Adam Sandler films. Out of World’s Greatest Dad we get a view of how people are mythologised after death, how history is bunk, are there are just worthless people, is Robin Williams completely comprised of body hair? Its also a film that openly quotes Simon Pegg, which just shows how individual the whole affair is. My expectations though, are slightly lower for the next one, which is probably just as well.